*Because life is too short to be bored.
Day two of our most recent Blanding adventure and I have more tips for you midlife rock climbers out there. Today we hiked the northern part of Butler Wash to the end of the wash. It’s about a 5 mile hike there and out with side trips to see ruins and climb around on rocks hoping to find more ruins and generally enjoying the scenery. This is a great time to hike Butler Wash because you don’t have to fight your way through a lot of vegetation in the wash. The reeds are just beginning to show their heads, and the willows are not leafed out yet. I’m imagining that in the summer this wash would be hot, humid, and sticky.
The first ruin we encountered is called Ballroom Cave and the reasons are obvious when you see how huge this cave is. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to climb big rocks at this ruin, but the ruin itself is really cool. You’ll notice that in the photos of Ballroom cave there are a lot of orbs suddenly. Now, there are many opinions about what these orbs actually are. Many people think they represent dust in the atmosphere. That’s certainly possible inside this cave. Other people believe orbs in photos represent a kind of spiritual presence that shows up digitally. I don’t know. But they are only present in the photos taken in Ballroom Cave, so you be the judge. They do make a cool photo.
We continued down the wash to find ruin number two, and here is where my ‘words of well-earned wisdom’ come into play. Ruin number two was way high up on a ledge, far above the floor of the wash. There would be climbing required.
As usual, Andrew scouted ahead to find the best route. Determining that we would have to climb the huge slickrock in order to reach the first ledge, he went ahead of me. My first words of wisdom are: always take your almost-20 year old son with you. These sons come in very handy when scouting the most appropriate route up a rock. They also can give you a hand up when required. Especially when your midlife body is reeling from the previous day’s adventure, almost-20 year old sons are without equal in the usefulness department.
The ‘spider monkey’ posture is the most useful posture when scaling really steep rock. The proper method is to keep your center of gravity low and forward, keep your eyes on what you are doing, and don’t look down. Never, never look down. Look forward only, every few steps to make sure you are not going to land on a cactus. I am not in complete posture in this photo as the complete posture requires all four appendages be touching the ground. Vary this posture with the ‘four wheel drive’ and eventually you will reach the top. Once there you may give yourself permission to eat jerky and trail mix because you’ve earned it.
So eventually, I do reach the first ledge, only to be confronted with a completely vertical wall that required scaling in order to reach the ruin. I ask Andrew if it’s worth it. He says it’s worth it not to fail. I sigh, knowing I might regret this, but not wanting to live a boring life.
See that little U-shaped area in the wall? That’s the area we had to climb as it had the most possible footholds. There was a ton of loose sand in this area. The wall probably won’t be there 100 years from now as it’s just crumbling. But that part is only about 15 feet high. Andrew climbed up first, then I handed up my backpack and began my ascent. I figured that if I fell, it would be a controlled fall and I’d land on soft sand. I’d be bruised, but not dead.
But I didn’t fall. I used the ‘wall hugger’ technique and braced myself with knees and thighs, shimmying my way up until I was almost through the U shape. Then I had to turn and brace my back against the wall, pushing with my knees and feet until I could get my elbow over the ledge and grab a log that someone had thoughtfully placed just back from the opening, secured with two good rocks. I was feeling mighty successful.
And then I realized that I had left my camera in my back pocket.
My track record with digital cameras is abysmal. Two years ago I ruined my last good camera by rolling my kayak. And I was close to shore! It wasn’t even a good story! Just a stupid one.
So my words of wisdom for this day are: never shimmy up a crumbly sandstone wall, bracing your body weight against your rear end when you have your digital camera in your back pocket. I am not making this up. You should definitely not do this. It ruins your camera. By ‘ruin’ I mean that this causes the camera to not be able to work due to sand ground into the mechanism. Digital cameras do not like this very much. 🙁